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Voting in Cook County: Information and Resources

Aug 08, 2022 01:07PM ● By Laura Durenberger
Photo: Element5 Digital

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - August 8, 2022


The 2022 election season is well underway - including primary election day on Tuesday, August 9. If you're new to the area or need a refresher on voting in Cook County, there is lots of information available to figure out all you need to know.

Boreal Community Media reached out to Cortnee Bernier, Tax and Elections Administrator for Cook County, MN, to ask about voting in Cook County, things to know, and helpful resources. 

Where can I go to register to vote?

According to Bernier, in Cook County, you can register to vote in person at the Cook County Auditor’s Office, which is the polling place for all districts outside the city limits of Grand Marais. Grand Marais residents can register at their polling place on Election Day.

You can also register online (note that it can take up to 14 business days for your registration to be reviewed) via the State of Minnesota website

Bernier added that “prior to the 21st day before an election, the voter only needs to fill out the application because it is entered into the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and runs through a series of checks and a Postal Verification Card is sent to verify that the voter lives at the address they indicated on the Voter Registration Application.  

If a person registers after the 20th day before an election, they must provide proof of residency because these checks may not be complete and the PVC card may not reach the voter prior to the upcoming election.  I have attached the Election Day Voter Registration fact sheet.”

If you’ve registered online but haven’t received confirmation, you can check the status here

What do I need in order to register to vote?

If you are registering to vote in person, you need a valid, state-issued identification with a current name and address such as a driver’s license, ID, learner’s permit, or Tribal ID. 

Additionally, you need a photo ID and document with your current address. The full document list can be found here, but some options are phone bills, utility bills, rent or mortgage bills, or student fee bills. 

If you don’t have one of the above options, you can have someone who is registered to vote in your precinct come with and vouch that you live at the address you say you do. 

There are some additional options for more specific scenarios a person might face when trying to register to vote. To see all of the options, check out the State of Minnesota voting website here

Do you have to pick a political party when you register to vote?  

Bernier says “not at registration time.” Additionally, “the only time a party must be declared in Minnesota is during a Presidential Primary.  HOWEVER, in a partisan primary, a voter must only vote for one party.  They cannot “cross-over” on a partisan primary ballot, but this is not related to Voter Registration.”

Where do I go on election day?

This information is available at mnvotes.org, at the Cook County Auditor’s Office, and on the Cook County website.  

In Cook County, those who live within the city limits of Grand Marais have a physical polling location - usually at the Cook County Courthouse or the Cook County Community Center. 

If someone lives outside of the Grand Marais city limits, those people are able to vote via mail ballots. 

This year, it’s important to double-check your polling place. Many areas were redistricted and polling locations may have changed. 

What’s a mail ballot county?

A mail ballot county is an area where many registered voters outside of city limits vote via a mail ballot. 

A mail ballot is NOT the same thing as an absentee ballot. 

Bernier said this about Cook County being a mail ballot county: “the main confusion we see is that because Cook County is a mail ballot county, people get confused between a Mail Ballot and an Absentee Ballot. 

If a Registered Voter resides outside of the city limits of Grand Marais and will be receiving mail at their residence at the time of the election, they do not need to apply for an absentee ballot.

These voters would only need an absentee ballot if they are away from their primary residence and receiving their mail elsewhere at the time of election.  (Mail ballots are not forwardable mail.)”

If I do actually need an absentee ballot, how do I go about obtaining one?

Bernier shared that to obtain an absentee ballot, a voter must complete an absentee ballot Application, either online at mnvotes.org or by contacting the Cook County Auditor’s Office. However, it’s important to note that there are different deadlines in order to get your absentee ballot in to count.  

What are precincts?

According to M.S. 204B.14: “Precincts are the basic geographical areas for organizing and administering elections. Precinct boundaries are established by the governing body of each municipality, and the county board in unorganized territories. 

City councils and township boards establish precinct boundaries as the result of various requirements in state statutes and also to suit the needs of the community. At a minimum, each municipality must be at least one precinct; additional precincts are necessary if the municipality is divided by a county, county commissioner, legislative or congressional district boundary. 

Within these broad requirements, municipalities may create as many or as few precincts as suits the community. 

Precincts are not tied to population size. However, precincts sized much beyond 2,000 registered voters become difficult to manage.”

Why are primaries important?

According to KSTP 5 News, “a primary election determines which candidates will appear on the November general election ballot. 

To help explain, the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office provides this example: Five candidates from one political party might run for governor. The winner of the August primary election will represent their party in the race for governor on the November general election ballot. 

Voters may see two kinds of offices on their primary ballots: Partisan offices and non-partisan offices. There will be a political party listed next to a candidate's name on the ballot for partisan offices. There won't be a political party next to a candidate's name on the ballot for non-partisan offices.”

What are the different primaries?

Bernier broke down the different primaries for further clarification:

Partisan Primaries

• No write-in votes are allowed.

• The ballot will have a column for each major political party. You can only vote for candidates from a single party. You cannot vote for candidates from more than one party. Voting for candidates from more than one party voids all votes on the partisan portion of the ballot.

• Minnesota does not have political party registration. You are not required to publicly declare affiliation with a party. All voters receive the same ballot.

Combined Partisan & Nonpartisan Primaries

• No write-in votes are allowed.

• For partisan offices, choose candidates from a single party.

• For nonpartisan offices, choose any candidate.

Presidential Nomination Primaries

• The ballot will be specific to the party chosen at the roster or registration station.

• One of the candidate choices might be “undeclared.”

• Write-in votes might be allowed. The party chair chooses if write-ins will be included on their ballot.

Is there a way to see who is on the ballot before election day?

Yes. The state of Minnesota has a website where you can type in your zip code, and it will populate the candidates on your ballot, as well as the option to download a sample ballot (which you can bring with to the polling location). 

In Cook County, you can find local candidate information on the county website here. For state and national candidate information, check out this website here

What is the typical, in-person, voting process?

The State of Minnesota has some very helpful tips for new voters or those who need a refresher. 

Here are some things to know: 

  • You will vote in a private area, and your vote is secret. Vote with a pen or pencil, and completely fill in the oval next to your choice. You can also fill out your ballot using a ballot-marking machine. It has many options for marking your ballot, such as large print, audio instructions, keypad, or touchscreen.

  • The ballot instructions will say how many candidates you can choose for each office. Usually, it will say to ‘choose one.’ Some local offices may have more than one seat to fill.

  • Your ballot will count even if you do not vote on every race or ballot question.

  • If you make a mistake, you have a right to ask for a replacement ballot.

What are other things I should know about voting in person?

There are certain rules that are important to follow when it comes to voting in person such as:

  • You cannot campaign in or near a polling place

  • You are not allowed to wear campaign marketing materials

  • Do not mark or sign your ballot

  • Taking photos is discouraged 

To see more polling place rules, check out the State of Minnesota website here.

Additionally, there are certain rights each person has when it comes to voting such as:

  • You are able to bring children to the polling place

  • You are able to bring a sample ballot with you

  • If you’re in line by 8pm, you’re still able to vote if the polling place closes

  • You are able to sign in orally if you can’t sign your name

To see all of your voting rights, visit the State of Minnesota website here

Taking time off of work to vote

Another right you have is that you are able to take time off of work to vote, without having to take vacation, sick time, or make up the hours. The State of Minnesota voter website has more information here

Do I need to be concerned about voter fraud?

Voter fraud is very rare, but it can happen. You can read more about how Minnesota is actively working to prevent voter fraud on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website here

Accessibility and voting

If you need accessibility accommodations, you have the right to get them. For example, curbside voting, bringing someone with you to help, or requesting a ballot marking machine are just some of the options. To see more, check out the State of Minnesota voting website here

Political Contribution Refund

Did you know that the State of Minnesota offers reimbursement for donating to a political campaign? It’s true! The state will reimburse you up to $50 for donating as an individual, or $100 for donating as a couple. 

Here are the specific candidates that quality: 

  • Minnesota Legislature (state House or Senate)

  • Minnesota governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general

  • Minnesota secretary of state

  • Minnesota state auditor

  • Qualified Minnesota political parties 

For a refund application or more information, visit the Political Contribution Refund page here.

2022 Key Election Dates:

May 17 – 31:  Candidate Filing period (County Commissioners, County Offices, and Soil & Water)

June 24 – Aug 8:  Absentee voting period

July 19:  Pre-registration closes

July 13 – 15:  Tentative mailing date of Primary Election Mail Ballots to all registered voters outside of the city limits of Grand Marais.  Voted ballots must be returned to County Auditor by 8 pm on Election Day.

August 2 – 16:  Candidate Filing period (Hospital, City, and School)

August 6:  Auditors office open for Absentee Voting 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

August 9:  Primary Election Day - Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

August 11:  Canvass board meets 
Sept 23 – Nov 7:  Absentee voting period

October 18:  Pre-registration closes

October 12 - 14:  Tentative mailing date of General Election Mail Ballots to all registered voters outside of the city limits of Grand Marais.  Voted ballots must be returned to County Auditor by 8 pm on Election Day.

November 5:  Auditors office open for Absentee Voting 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

November 8:  General Election Day

November 14:  Canvass board meets

November 21:  Post Election Review

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